Blame weather on poor corn harvest – Monsanto

LINGAYEN– Officials of Pangasinan are not easily swayed to accept the explanation of Monsanto Philippines, a multinational seed company, over the failed harvests of corn farmers last planting season who pointed to the hybrid seed Dekalb 6999S as the culprit that caused Poor Grain Fill (PGF).

Representatives of Monsanto, the manufacturer and marketing company of Dekalb 6999S pointed out that the poor results in some areas may have been caused by the hot weather that prevented sufficient soil moisture at the time the plants were in their growing stages.

PGF is characterized by incomplete kernel set leading to reduced corn yield.

Fourth District Board Member Liberato Villegas, chair of the committee on agriculture, manifested his dissatisfaction with the explanations.

“First of all, I am not satisfied with their (Monsanto’s) explanation that climate and moisture as well as timing were the ones to be blamed for the poor grains fill on corn. If these were so, then how can Monsanto claim that PGF was an isolated case with only eight percent of the cornfield in Urbiztondo affected”, Villegas said in Filipino.

“Secondly. their explanation was too technical. The provincial government has no scientist and therefore has no technical capability to validate their data,” added Villegas, who pointed out that the board is not looking for anyone to blame over the farmers’ losses but looking for a win-win solution that will be acceptable to both sides, the farmers and the company.

The board members said they welcomed the news that the company is considering to launch financial assistance plan for some 223 affected farmers in the second and third districts where PGF in last corn crop was noted.

Provincial Agriculturist Officer-in-Charge Dalisay Moya said that as of March 19 there were nine towns–Aguilar, Mangatarem, Basista, Calasiao, San Carlos, Urbiztondo, Sta. Barbara, Lingayen and Calasiao, tilled by 223 farmers, affected.

Charina Ocampo, corporate affairs officer of Monsanto Philippines, confirmed that Dekalb 6999S is the latest hybrid seed developed and put in the market by her company, and reiterated “we are proud and stand by the quality of the product.”.

She said the company was shocked on hearing the news on March 2 that some farmers were blaming the hybrid seeds as the cause of the emergence of PGF, and the company immediately responded by sending a technical team to investigate and interview the farmers.

Ocampo also confirmed that her company is considering a financial assistance program for the affected farmers to which Second District Board Member Raul Sison, whose privilege speech last March 5 exposed the existence of PGF among the corn crops harvested by farmers, reacted that if Monsanto really believes that their seed is not the culprit, it has no reason to extend financial assistance.

John Fajardo, one of Monsanto’s technical experts who investigated the allegations on the existence of PGF, explained that the planned assistance for the affected corn farmers is a recognition of the farmers being their cooperators who’ve been patronizing their products and, therefore, there could be nothing wrong if the company assists them in their times of need. The other member of the team is Dr. Gabriel Romero.

Monsanto’s technical team that investigated had determined that more than 92 percent of the total bags of seeds planted in Urbiztondo had no issues of PGF and more than 98 percent of Dekalb 6999S seeds planted in the whole province did not suffer PGF.

Romero and Fajardo attributed the 92 percent successful rating in areas with favorable environmental conditions (i.e. sufficient soil moisture at critical corn stages, favorable temperature), particularly during October, early-mid November and mid-December onwards.

They maintained that the occurrence of PGF was an isolated case observed in selected areas in western Pangasinan with sandy soil condition that have low water holding and experience high temperature.

At the same time, they said, the investigation showed PGF was also observed in hybrids of other brands.

In sum, Romero and Fajardo said the interplay of multi-factors has caused PGF because of poor pollination and seed set, or poor nicking attributed to improper timing and amount of irrigation, weather condition and soil type. (Leonardo Micua)

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